Presidential Radio Address - 12 November 2005
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This coming Tuesday, America's Medicare beneficiaries can begin to enroll for new prescription drug coverage. This new benefit is the greatest advance in health care for seniors and Americans with disabilities since the creation of Medicare 40 years ago.
In the past, Medicare would pay tens of thousands of dollars for ulcer surgery, but not a few hundred dollars for prescription drugs that eliminate the cause of most ulcers. In the past, Medicare would pay more than $100,000 to treat the effects of a stroke, but not $1,000 per year for blood-thinning drugs that could have prevented the stroke in the first place.
With this new prescription drug benefit, Medicare will now help pay for the prescription drugs that can prevent serious illness. Seniors will get more choices and better treatment, and America will get a Medicare system to fit the needs of the 21st century.
The new coverage will begin on January 1st. If you or someone you love depends on Medicare, I urge you to learn about the new choices you have so you can make a decision and enroll. Enrollment is entirely voluntary, and seniors who want to keep their Medicare coverage the way it is will be able to do so. But for those who want to take advantage of this new drug benefit, enrolling by May 15th will ensure you the lowest possible premiums. The sooner you enroll, the sooner you can have the peace of mind this coverage will bring.
The new prescription drug coverage will benefit people on Medicare in three important ways. First, it will help all seniors and Americans with disabilities pay for prescription drugs, no matter how they pay for their medicine now. Seniors who have no drug coverage and have average prescription drug costs will see savings of at least 50 percent. And seniors who have the highest drug costs will receive special help. Starting in January, once a senior has spent $3,600 in a year, Medicare will cover 95 percent of all prescription costs.
Second, this new coverage will offer more and better health care choices than ever before. That means seniors can save more and get the coverage they want -- not a "one size fits all" plan that does not meet their needs. Every prescription drug plan will offer a broad choice of generic and brand-name drugs, and seniors will be able to select any Medicare prescription drug plan in their area that fits their needs and their medical history.
Third, this new prescription drug coverage will provide extra help to low-income seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities. About a third of the seniors will be eligible for a Medicare prescription drug benefit that includes little or no premiums, low deductibles, and no gaps in coverage. On average, Medicare will pick up the tab for more than 95 percent of the costs that low-income seniors pay for prescription drugs.
The days of low-income seniors having to make painful sacrifices to pay for their prescription drugs are now coming to an end. Last month, those of you on Medicare received in the mail a handbook called "Medicare and You" that includes detailed information about your options. Citizen groups and faith-based organizations across America are also working to spread the word so that Medicare recipients can get their questions answered and make informed choices.
If you have Medicare, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more. Review your choices, and make the decision that is right for you. If you have family or friends on Medicare, you can help too. Helping can be as simple as showing an older neighbor how to fill out a form, or making a call for your mom or dad. You can get information 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-MEDICARE, or by visiting the official Medicare website at Medicare.gov.
In the 21st century, preventing and treating illness often require prescription drugs. In the coming months, we will help every Medicare recipient make a confident choice about their prescription drug coverage. By expanding drug coverage for our nation's seniors, we will help all Americans on Medicare receive the modern health care they deserve.
Thank you for listening.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).